Update: EHC debate rages on

Compulsory pharmacist consultation for emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) isn’t medically necessary and there is no medical reason that the medication couldn’t be available on general sale, Dr Jane Dickson, from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH), has told BBC Radio 5 Live.

In this latest developement in the ongoing debate about EHC, Dr Dickson said that “despite occasional minor side effects, no woman has poisoned herself” with the morning-after pill, unlike paracetamol, which is readily available in supermarkets.

But Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English Pharmacy Board, says the consultation is an important way for pharmacists to advise women on what medication will be most effective at different points in their menstural cycle and to give advice on sexual health and STIs. She says “pharmacists have a professional responsibility to make sure it’s being taken appropriately and safely.”

BBC Radio 5 Live also highlighted the view of some women who feel that an EHC consultation makes them feel judged by being asked intrusive questions about their sex lives and periods. Sandra Gidley said that pharmacists “don’t preach” and argues that it’s an opportunity for women to ask questions and discuss health factors that might affect the success of the pill. “Pharmacists have a professional responsibility to make sure it’s being taken appropriately and safely,” she added.

Boots responds to backlash

Following a storm of criticism over previous comments made about EHC, Boots has announced it will roll out a less expensive EHC medicine to enable the company to make a privately funded EHC service more accessible in the future. Following a four week trial period in 38 stores, the multiple pharmacy chain has secured an increased supply of a generic version of EHC (levonorgestrel), which means the company will be able to offer this across its 2,500 stores from October 2017 at a cost of £15.99.

A Boots UK Spokesperson says, “We’re committed to listening to our customers on this important matter, and have been working hard to establish a sustainable supply of this medicine so we can offer this as part of our EHC service nationally across all 2,500 of our stores. We continue to believe that the best way to increase access of EHC is for a free NHS service to be made available to all women for the provision of EHC in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales.”

  • Tell us what you think – should all women who request EHC have a consultation with a pharmacist? How could this consultation be improved to avoid women feeling judged? Email us to voice your views.


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